Changing the Wardrobe: Perfume for a Rainy Day

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The days have been turning darker and rainier over the past week, and today the first thing I noticed when I stepped outside was a scattering of golden leaves on the ground. Although seasonality in perfume is a vaguely defined concept, it is enjoyable to switch one’s scented wardrobe in anticipation of a new season. For me, the soft florals (or aldehydic florals) and classical florals of the summer give way to the chypre and oriental compositions during the colder months. Both chypres and orientals are comprised of notes that can give a warm sensation, such as the dry heat of patchouli in the former or the sensual richness of spices and resins in the latter. In contrast to the delicate, dewy notes of soft florals like Robert Piguet Baghari and fresh florals like Marc Jacobs Blush, the flowers blooming in the hearts of oriental fragrances are opulent and sweet—rose, jasmine, carnation, narcissus. The iris that forms the link between the middle and base notes of many chypre perfumes is more of a wood than a flower—hefty, silky and rich. What might appear as too heavy and smothering in the heat instead works like a cashmere wrap in the cold. …

Bvlgari Black
Bvlgari Black is definitely not a prim and proper fragrance. Black tar, rubber, and smoke — as improbably as it sounds, the result is seductive and modern.

Caron Poivre
Caron’s dark undercurrent has no seasonal associations for me, but Poivre does. Dark, spicy, with a rich heart of carnation, it is by far my favorite Caron fragrance. Also, the civet smeared flowers of Narcisse Noir and the vanilla and tobacco scented leather of Tabac Blond unfold even more beautifully in the cold air.

Chanel Coco
A majestic oriental fragrance, Coco is said to be inspired by the baroque décor of Chanel’s apartment at Rue Cambon. Jasmine blossoms, spices and amber result in a blend as intoxicating as cognac.

Comme des Garçons Incense Series
Avignon, Kyoto, Jalsaimer, Quarzazate, and Zagorsk. Five different types of incense from different traditions and suitable for different moods. I have always been partial to the iris accented incantations of Zagorsk; however, lately I have been leaning towards the coffee tinged warmth of Kyoto.

Coty L’Origan
Coty L’Origan and many of its floral oriental siblings, from Guerlain L’Heure Bleue to Giorgio Armani Code for Women, take floral softness and wrap it into vanilla and amber. The delicate effect is retained, and yet the end result is more substantial and complex.

Estée Lauder Youth Dew Amber Nude
Youth Dew Amber Nude is not just create a flanker to the original Youth Dew. It is a fragrance with its own distinct character and signature. The apricot wood of its magnolia note lends a particularly appealing twist to the composition. It feels like gold threaded silk and wears like transparent cashmere.

Frédéric Malle Musc Ravageur
Maurice Roucel readily admits that there is no musk in Musc Ravageur. “Musk tincture has musk (powdery and creamy like Muscone) and animalic parts. In Musc Ravageur, I used only the animalic aspect,” he notes . I find this fragrance simply irresistible, and its animalic warmth is welcome on these dark autumnal days. For a less hefty and more gourmand version, one might like to try L de Lolita Lempicka. Another Frédéric Malle fragrance that brightens up any cold day with its gentle radiance is Une Rose, a neoclassical chypre with a big dose of amber.

Guerlain Mitsouko
The gilded autumnal hues of Mitsouko, the melancholy aura of L’Heure Bleue, the plumy rose refrain of Nahéma. The iris, tonka bean and rose leitmotif of the house of Guerlain lends itself to being worn on chilly days. The masculine collection is likewise impressive, and I would encourage women to explore it, especially Habit Rouge and L’Instant pour Homme.

Ormonde Jayne Tolu
Resinous and vanillic, Tolu is a classical oriental. Although in the summer I choose to admire it from a distance, in the fall, it turns into a staple. Ta’if, an olfactory painting of Persian still life with fruit and sweetmeats, is another great fragrance for warming up on a cold evening.

Santa Maria Novella Opoponax
Initially, Opoponax smells like an old library, a scent of varnish, damp paper and ink. However, this accord soon vanishes, leaving a smooth, piquant base of patchouli and resins. Given its fascinating transformation, Opoponax ranks as my favorite fragrance from Santa Maria Novella, along with rubber and cypress leaf layered Nostalgia.

Serge Lutens
With few exceptions, the opulent heft of Serge Lutens‘s fragrance is perfect for the colder times of the year. Exploring them is like flipping ornate pages of an antique fairytale book. My personal favorites include Fleurs d’Oranger, Rose de Nuit and Bois de Violette.

Sisley Soir de Lune
Soir de Lune is not for the faint of heart. Yet, if one enjoys the spicy darkness of classical chypres, it will be a great discovery this fall.

And yet, there are days when nothing is more perfect than a drop of Diorissimo parfum, a beautiful reminder of the spring that is still nine months away. The list above reflects my personal tastes, but experimenting with a variety of other possibilities is always an enjoyable process. If you have your own favorites for the fall, please share them.

Photo: Catherine Deneuve by Jean-Marie Périer from Tout Sur Deneuve. La Deneuve is quite a fragrance lover. In a variety of interviews she has given, she names Guerlain L’Heure Bleue, Serge Lutens collection such as Ambre Sultan, Un Lys, and Rose de Nuit, Frédéric Malle Lys Méditerranée, The Different Company Bois d’Iris, and Annick Goutal Sables as her favorites.

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44 Comments

  • Dusan: Ooh, how I love your “seasonal” articles, Vic! Very beautifully written September 13, 2006 at 9:50pm Reply

  • Dusan: Ooh, how I love your “seasonal” articles, Vic! Beautifully written, and as always, so evocative and true. It’s still around 25 C here, yet I can smell the autumn in the air and this transition always makes me sad. I can’t help it, I’m a summer child.
    With the exception of the fragrances I have yet to try, all of your suggestions are stunning. I cherish my BB bottle, despite its whimsical stopper, I love Coco, Habit Rouge 🙂 and Mitsouko, incense in general and of course, I adore my Holy Grail L’Instant. And guess what I was I wearing today – Musc Ravageur! May I add Dior Homme, Gaultier2, Black Cashmere, Egoiste and Borneo to your list? 🙂
    Hugs
    P.S. La Deneuve is elegance and beauty incarnate, but she has always struck me as being cold. Must be the French aloofness. September 13, 2006 at 10:03pm Reply

  • Nick: Great to see this story at a time when I am thinking about exactly the same thing. Here in the southern hemisphere, we are coming into Spring, and it happens to be one of my favourite perfume climates. The air is still cool, allowing the wearing of perfumes that are good in the cold, however, there is a building warmth which warms these fragrances slightly. Soon this cool/warm moment passes, so I have to make hay, so to speak! September 14, 2006 at 2:10am Reply

  • chaya ruchama: Again, dear V,you nail the emotions in the most literate and lyrical manner possible.

    We share many favorites, along with La D.[Dusanchik,I agree- very cold- AND all that plastic surgery to boot, whether she admits it or no- but lovely and talented nonetheless !].

    I tend to add beloved Habanita to the list, along with more gourmandish ambers,Cabochard,Sortilege,deeper iris scents,and Sables[with its fierce tenacity].

    SO many others, but it’s early here, and no coffee yet!
    Have a good day, dusa moja ! September 14, 2006 at 5:50am Reply

  • marchlion: Thanks for that wonderful list. I always look forward to the arrival of weather right for Mitsouko, L’Heure Bleue and Jicky. September 14, 2006 at 7:35am Reply

  • Marina: Wonderful list. Poivre, Coco, MR, several Lutens will be my staple too this autumn. As will Navigateur, Agraria Balsam, DK Labdanum, Dzing, daim Blond, Cuir de Russie and Kolnisch Juchten. September 14, 2006 at 8:38am Reply

  • k-amber: Excellent list as always. Coty L’Origan is one of my mom’s all-time favorite fragrance that reminds me my childhood. I have Tolu and Ta’if testers and love both very much. I am thinking about ordering one of them. Your new web-layout is very beautiful!

    Kaori September 14, 2006 at 8:54am Reply

  • Mercedes Rey: Excellent (…as always)! I should add Ambre Narguilé, Dior Homme, Eau d´Hermés… September 14, 2006 at 9:08am Reply

  • annE: Lovely, lyrical list! I love many of them as well, and would add: Tiempe Passate, Caron’s Alpona, and Montale Sandalsliver, among others.

    p.s. Beautiful new layout, and I hope you’re settling well into your new home. Fall is always about change, isn’t it? 🙂 September 14, 2006 at 9:11am Reply

  • Heather: Wonderful list, and a wonderful article as always. I’ve been lurking here for many months and anxiously await each new posting. I have only one perfume recommendation to add to this list of rainy fall perfumes: Creed’s Angelique Encens. September 14, 2006 at 9:44am Reply

  • Judith: Wonderful article, wonderful list! I adore pretty much all of these, with the exception of the YDAN, which seemed too sweet to me (or something; I don’t remember it well, but I wasn’t moved to explore it further), and the SMN Opoponax, which I haven’t tried. I really love Nostalgia though, so I must do so soon! I am so happy about having bought the beautiful Soir de Lune–no buyer’s remorse here! And on my own list, I would add Chanel Cuir de Russie, the Ambres Russe and Narguile, and some Montale ouds (esp. Rose Petals). And then there are many leathers and woods that I pull out now. Like Heather (and unlike you, I know), I also adore Angelique Encens, but for me, it is a year-round fragrance. September 14, 2006 at 10:27am Reply

  • Tania: Coincidence: I brought Bulgari Black out of hiding today, as my black rubber raincoat for the wet cold weather. How wonderful to see it top your list today! It is perfect for these gray damp days, especially sprayed on a sweater, where it can linger for weeks. Perverse and comforting all at once, it is one of my favorite scents to pull out when the wind bites a little harder. September 14, 2006 at 10:41am Reply

  • Amandampc: Thank you – what a lovely piece of writing this is. Your remark on the Guerlain iris/tonka/rose motif is so perceptive; the combination really does convey almost viscerally the very air of autumn with its mingling of coolness and warmth. As for your others, I’ve been hording my YDAN but will have to break it out now that you’ve officially recommended it! Some of my past and current fall favorites beyond Guerlain (Nahema, Chamade and VdN in particular) include Bal a Versailles, Sensations by Jil Sander, Sage Garnet (a little hippie/headshoppy but likable nonetheless) and, sentimentally, several of the Crabtree & Evelyn scents that most remind me of New England autumns*. Nantucket Briar, which I’ve been wearing all this wonderfully chilly week, is a clove and cinnamon-spiked soft floral; and Savannah Gardens is a warm, almost syrupy amber-based floriental with an edge of spice. They are both simple yet not simplistic and really terrific when I’m not feeling up to carrying off a Guerlain. (*When younger, I used to wear Savannah Gardens often in the fall, including sometimes while showing my horse. How bizarre in context – yet truly fitting for a future fragrance fanatic!) September 14, 2006 at 11:55am Reply

  • Ina: Wonderful picks! I was just thinking the other day how it’s time to bring out Coco and Tolu. Am yet to try SMN Opoponax – how did I miss this? September 14, 2006 at 12:42pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Dusan, thank you very much! September 14, 2006 at 12:44pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: D, I love autumn, probably because I was born in September. Your own fall favourites are great. Black Cashmere is another fragrance I keep reaching for at this time.

    Yes, La Deneuve can come across as an ice queen. I still love her, especially in the Umbrellas of Cherbourg and Belle de Jour. September 14, 2006 at 1:00pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Nick, I love the transitions between season. I hate the heat of the summer and the cold of the winter, but both the fall and the spring are my favourites. Smelling autumn in the air always makes me feel a sense of bittersweetness, which is such a strange and appealing emotion. September 14, 2006 at 1:02pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Chaya, thank you. Habanita is what I have been wearing a lot last week. Its combination of powdery vanilla and vetiver is fantastic. September 14, 2006 at 1:03pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: March, me too. It is definitely my favourite time of the year. September 14, 2006 at 1:03pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Marina, all of my leather fragrances have been neglected in the summer, but now they are receiving the attention they deserve. September 14, 2006 at 1:12pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Kaori, thank you. The fragrance that reminds me of my mother is Diorissimo. She has moved on since then, but I still love it. September 14, 2006 at 2:43pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Mercedes, Ambre Narguilé and Eau d´Hermés are my own staples too. Thank you for reminding me about them. September 14, 2006 at 2:44pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Ann, how true! Fall is definitely about change, and this fall has been full of changes in particular. I love Alpona, a radiant, beautiful chypre. September 14, 2006 at 2:45pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Heather, it is a pleasure to see your comment. I love fall, and warmer chypres and orientals are among my favourite fragrances. September 14, 2006 at 2:46pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: J, thank you! I cannot call myself a fan of Santa Maria Novella fragrances, but a few of them stand out. Opoponax has an old university library aura, while Nostalgia brings back a memory of walking along the highway in Verona trying to get to a particular castle, which turned out to be not very interesting. Why on earth I would want to revisit this memory in perfume is another question. 🙂 September 14, 2006 at 2:54pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: T, “perverse and comforting all at once” is exactly right! This is the main reason why Black intrigues me so. September 14, 2006 at 2:55pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Amanda, thank you for your compliment. I feel a strong affinity with many Guerlain fragrances, and I fall in love with them yet again every fall. They are made for each other–the bittersweet feeling of the autumnal landscapes and the melancholy, slightly nostalgic aura of these great French classics. September 14, 2006 at 2:57pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Ina, you should definitely try Opoponax. It is such an interesting fragrance. September 14, 2006 at 2:58pm Reply

  • violetnoir: Could La Deneuve be any more beautiful, V? What a stunning woman.

    I love your post. Well, I always love your posts, but today’s post is right on! :):) Just this morning, I was thinking about wearing my fall/winter scents, as the weather suddenly changed overnight from the ninety degrees to barely 65 or 70 with drizzles and clouds.

    In additon to the POTL body cream (and, of course, Coco and Mitsouko), it’s time for me to break out the MW Incense, Passage d’Enfer, Tea for Two, YSL Nu, Attrape Coeur and many more beloved fragrances for this time of year. Right now, I am having a love affair with Aromatics Elixir. Did you ever write a review on that one?

    Hugs! September 14, 2006 at 3:58pm Reply

  • Scandale: “like flipping ornate pages of an antique fairytale book”

    This has got to be one of the most beautiful phrases you have ever written ! (In my humble opinion)

    I will remember this image always and rather than plot my next specific fragrance purchase, I will picture this as I fall asleep tonight.
    Thank You ! September 14, 2006 at 8:36pm Reply

  • Solander: I love autumn and “autumnal” scents. A great list – I agree about the Comme des Garcons and Serge Lutens, I recently got samples of the Incense series and Les Somptueux and they fit the season very well. I would also add Ambre Russe from Parfums d’Empire, a lovely warm, boozy, dry, powdery, leathery amber. September 15, 2006 at 7:47am Reply

  • julien: Hello
    Nice to write again…
    For me,the best perfumes for a rainy day are:

    1)Après l’ondée,just because it is the smell of rain on flowers and woods.
    Delicate,smooth and so charming..yet,sad.
    And that’s what i like.

    2)Mitsouko,for the same reasons than Après l’ondée but in a darkest way and for evenings.

    3)L’Heure Bleue,too,for it is the night version of Après l’ondée but in a much more joyous way(yet still melancholic).
    A pure dream came true…for lovers!;)

    4)Chanel numéro 22,for it is charming,persisting and so elegant.

    That’s all for me.

    Kisses,j. September 15, 2006 at 1:57pm Reply

  • Diane: Lovely piece and so apropos. Right now I’m suddenly struck by melancholy. I have no idea why and can only attribute it to the cooler, graying weather. I love many of the ones you listed, especially Musc Ravageur, Mitsouko, Nahema, and Poivre. They are delicious when the ground becomes crunchy with fallen leaves.

    I will definitely seek out Opoponax and I still have not tried the popular and beloved Tolu.

    Last but definitely not least, that photo! I absolutely LOVE that photo. Not only for an appreciation of the beautiful Deneuve during her heydey, but what an artistically rendered photograph. It is so in line with my aesthetic tastes. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous.

    And I love your new layout. September 15, 2006 at 6:47pm Reply

  • helg: Nice to see your autumn favourites, Vic.
    We seem to share a lot in common.

    Regarding La Deneuve, she has tons of perfume favourites, hence she is a honorary entry on my Celebrity list on my site linked below. The lady has taste!
    I also love the pic you chose of her. Autumnal… September 16, 2006 at 2:57pm Reply

  • Pamela: I am a recent discoverer of your blog, Victoria.
    Being a fragrance lover, I enjoy your updates and descriptions of parfums I’ve yet to discover.
    I am aslo a Guerlain fan, Mitsouko sits on my vanity table…
    Also Coco…
    Another Geurlain fragrance I enjoy in Autumn is Samsara…
    Please keep up the great work,
    this is a place I like to visit! September 17, 2006 at 7:03pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: R, I have not reviewed Aromatics Elixir yet, but I probably should. It is a great fragrance. I especially liked the new lighter version. September 20, 2006 at 2:18pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: L, “I will remember this image always and rather than plot my next specific fragrance purchase, I will picture this as I fall asleep tonight.” This is the best compliment for me. Thank you. September 20, 2006 at 2:19pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Solander, I was lukewarm about Ambre Russe by Parfums d’Empire until this fall. It seems to fit the season so well. September 20, 2006 at 2:20pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Julien, nice to hear from you again. Thank you for your list. It contains many of my own favourites. September 20, 2006 at 2:21pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: D, thank you! I always find autumn to be a melancholy time. It must be the change of seasons in the air, the scent of decay soon to come. And yet, it is my favourite time of the year. September 20, 2006 at 2:22pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: El, thank you. I love that photo as well. She does have quite a perfume collection, by all accounts. September 20, 2006 at 2:23pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Pamela, welcome and thank you for your nice words. I also love Samsara. It is a scent of fall/winter for me. September 20, 2006 at 2:24pm Reply

  • Hannah: This is an old post, but I looked it up since I’m going to be in Hamburg for a year.
    2/5 of my perfume collection is on here–Bulgari Black and CDG Ouarzazate. The others are Black Cashmere Alexander McQueen Kingdom and YSL M7. I think these would be great for rainy weather, as well. Unfortunately, it is very unlikely that I will be bringing Kingdom because it is in the biggest box (despite not holding the greatest amount of volume). I might not bring M7, either. I might buy Coze while I’m there. A recent review on luckyscent suggests that it is reformulated so I’ll have to see what it is like, but my sample got a lot of wear during cold rainy days.
    I think Eau D’Italie Bois D’Ombrie would be a good cold, rainy day scent too. I’ll be bringing my sample. September 19, 2013 at 1:00am Reply

    • Victoria: Bois d’Ombrie is very comforting somehow. Today is very cold and rainy here in Brussels, and I think that I will cuddle with it once I finish work. September 19, 2013 at 11:52am Reply

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